Walter Hälg Prize for Professor Peter Böni

Aktuell, Wissenschaft, MIRA |

Prof. Dr. Peter Böni is thankful for receiving the award. © Wenzel Schürmann, TUM

For his ground-breaking research in superconductivity and magnetism, Prof. Peter Böni of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) received the Walter Hälg Prize on August 23, 2022. The award is endowed with 10,000 Swiss Francs and was presented by the European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA) at the International Conference on Neutron Scattering (ICNS) in Buenos Aires.

At the Forschungs-Neutronenquelle Heinz Maier-Leibnitz (FRM II), Prof. Peter Böni is engaged in fundamental research on condensed matter. His work on innovative neutron optics and instrument development deserves special recognition. Guiding neutrons from their point of origin to the required instrument is a technical challenge due to their neutral charge. Neutron guides designed by Böni are essential components of neutron scattering instruments around the world, including at the Heinz Maier-Leibnitz Zentrum (MLZ) and the Swiss neutron spallation source SINQ at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI).

Böni was also involved in the first experimental detection of a magnetic skyrmion lattice in manganese silicon at the triaxial spectrometer MIRA at MLZ, together with Prof. Christian Pfleiderer from the Physics Department of TUM and Dr. Sebastian Mühlbauer, instrument scientist at the MLZ. In the future, the skyrmions, they discovered, could revolutionize data storage: The special vortex structure enables the storage of information in a smaller space compared to current data carriers.

Joy for the award for Prof. Böni
For Professor Böni, the Walter Hälg Prize came completely unexpected. “Especially because several excellent scientists from neutron scattering have received this prize before me and I did not consider myself to belong to this league beforehand. Therefore, I was very happy about the nomination.” He also emphasizes, “It is clear that the great scientific environment in Garching, namely the large number of very good students and the powerful neutron source FRM II, was absolutely essential for the award-winning work.”

Walter Hälg Prize for outstanding neutron research
The award’s namesake, Walter Hälg, was a Swiss neutron researcher who pioneered the fields of reactor technology and neutron scattering. In 1999, he established the award to recognize and reward outstanding scientists. The award additionally comes with a generous 10,000 Swiss Francs. “I was lucky enough to know Prof. Hälg personally when I was still working at PSI before I came to TUM,” Böni recounts. This is another reason why the prize is especially significant for the physicist.

Award ceremony at the International Conference on Neutron Scattering
The European Neutron Scattering Association (ENSA) awards the Walter Hälg Prize every two years and honors researchers for their outstanding commitment and success in neutron research. The award ceremony took place on August 23 at the International Conference on Neutron Scattering (ICNS) in Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, Professor Böni was not able to receive the award in person and he regrets that due to the virtual participation “of course some of the charm of the award ceremony was lost”. Nevertheless, the joy for the special recognition of his work prevails.